Regulating electronic communications: A level playing field for telecoms and OTTs?

31-08-2016

Telecommunications markets in the EU are changing rapidly in the face of growing demand for broadband access and the increasing importance of internet and mobile applications in modern life. Telecommunications network operators are facing challenges, including decreasing revenues and greater competition from companies that provide services that run 'over the top' of the internet and that compete directly or indirectly with their service offerings. Network operators argue that less stringent regulations imposed on these 'over the top' (OTT) players create difficulties in competing with these new services. Ensuring fair competition is particularly important as telecommunications companies must invest in new infrastructure if Europe is to meet increasing demand for high-speed, high-quality internet and achieve all of the EU's Digital Agenda goals. In September 2016, the European Commission is expected to release its conclusions from a review of the current EU telecoms regulation. Definitions of different types of digital services may need updating to reflect technological change and new market conditions. Whilst the recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation has now established stronger cross-sector regulation in the area of personal data, policy options that would help to create a level playing field for telecoms and OTT providers include extending some telecoms regulatory requirements to OTT services, and reducing sector-specific constraints on traditional network operators.

Telecommunications markets in the EU are changing rapidly in the face of growing demand for broadband access and the increasing importance of internet and mobile applications in modern life. Telecommunications network operators are facing challenges, including decreasing revenues and greater competition from companies that provide services that run 'over the top' of the internet and that compete directly or indirectly with their service offerings. Network operators argue that less stringent regulations imposed on these 'over the top' (OTT) players create difficulties in competing with these new services. Ensuring fair competition is particularly important as telecommunications companies must invest in new infrastructure if Europe is to meet increasing demand for high-speed, high-quality internet and achieve all of the EU's Digital Agenda goals. In September 2016, the European Commission is expected to release its conclusions from a review of the current EU telecoms regulation. Definitions of different types of digital services may need updating to reflect technological change and new market conditions. Whilst the recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation has now established stronger cross-sector regulation in the area of personal data, policy options that would help to create a level playing field for telecoms and OTT providers include extending some telecoms regulatory requirements to OTT services, and reducing sector-specific constraints on traditional network operators.